To be a bit cliché, this shoemaker is a professional Web Developer and her child is this blog, but it was past time to launch what I have of a new design. All the content is still here, everything else is a work in progress (kind of like most of my sewing projects)!
When I sat down to write this, it struck me that my opening could be much the same as last year’s. Again, we traveled quite a bit. Again, I changed roles at work (back into development, still team leadership). But, I also spent weeks on end not entering my studio space, not sewing, not dreaming up projects. I posted the fewest updates here since I started keeping this blog in 2009. So, this will be a pretty minimal roundup for the year.
I was surprised to realize that I finished one more quilt this year than last. The finishes fell evenly into three categories: baby quilt gifts, donations to my guild’s community quilt drive, and ones I kept.
Every quilt I finished this year was either a pre-existing work in progress or made from stash. I’m happy to see my backlog of started projects shrink a little more. Despite the stash projects, my collection of fabric actually increased exponentially this year (more on that later), but it was nice to use up some of the older bits.
Despite not blogging, I did more to show my work in real life than I have in past years.
The F-word hung at the Vermont Quilt Fest. I don’t think it was very well received, but one of the judges gave me some insightful feedback, so it was a satisfying experience.
Human hung at the Squam Modern Quilt Show hosted by the Cambridge MQG and Gather Here, as well as in a special exhibit by the Vermont MQG at the Champlain Valley Quilt Guild’s show this year (an exhibit I also organized, which ate up a chunk of time).
After four years of traveling the country (and to Canada), my 1812 Challenge Quilt finally came home this summer.
Samplers, Meetups, Exchanges
I signed up for the Mighty Lucky Quilting Challenges this year, but only completed two of the challenges. January’s bias tape challenge resulted in a mini art quilt, and I made a pillow of quilted words as a result of June’s challenge.
I find myself hesitant to make any resolutions for 2017, but if I were to do so, it’d be as simple as “spend more time creating.”
As the year draws to a close, two articles I read this year have really stuck with me and will likely play a role in how I look at things in the coming year. In the first (from 2014), Cheryl Arkison talks about why she doesn’t limit the number of projects she currently has “under construction.” As someone who spent the previous three years making a concerted effort to reduce the number of works in progress I have, it may seem odd that in many ways I agree with her. But as she discusses in the section about creative challenges, I do think there can be value in having a variety of projects to work on. A lot of my focus has been on clearing out projects that never really called to me in the first place, but that I didn’t want to abandon. What is left is a collection of very different ideas that are simply waiting for me to be in the right mood to explore.
The other was Abby Glassenberg’s article about how language matters and the often exclusionary nature of how we talk about quilting. While I think the entire article is spot on, the section at the end about fabric stashes struck a particular chord. I purchased over 60 yards (yes, really! I couldn’t believe it either) of fabric this year. Some was to supplement what I already had to finish in-progress projects, but much of it was taking advantage of sales two local shops were running (one was moving, the other closing). Mere days before the article came out, I made one of those throwaway small-talk jokes to the fabric store clerk at checkout about my husband’s likely horror of such a large purchase and maybe I should sneak it inside. It was also mostly a lie, because he doesn’t really care and I felt no guilt (also: I’m a terribly awkward person in conversation most days, especially for small talk). It was one of those things we say to act like everyone else. Just like all the brainless micro aggressions that continue to feed racism, sexism, ageism, all the other -isms. In other words, this is the year that I managed to turn buying fabric into a great philosophical event for myself.
That’s all a really long way of obliquely saying that in 2017 you should expect more ‘statement’ projects (a lá F-word, Human), and more stash projects (fabric palette projects?).
A word of advice: when heading to retreats, give yourself plenty of time to pack and consider projects. I waited until the last minute and only had some half-baked ideas. One of those was finishing up my 2013 Saturday Sampler projects in some way. I considered how to do so before leaving for the retreat, but rather than sketching something out, I just wrote down a few measurements and required materials, then tossed the box containing the finished blocks in with everything else I was taking. That’s the obscure way of saying that this quilt is nothing like what I’d planned, but hey, it’s a finished project!
Cotton’s Etc. in Wampsville, NY ran this sampler back in 2013. I only attended for four months before we moved to VT, so I wasn’t working with much for this quilt. I went to the retreat with the four completed 12″ blocks, a half-yard of supposedly matching white, and low-loft cotton batting pieced together from scraps.
On the Saturday of the retreat, we took a quick road trip to a local store running a moving sale, and picked up most of the rest of what I’d need—a yard for borders that coordinated pretty well, and 1.5 yds of lovely cuddle backing. The gray binding came from my stash at home.
I realized after I pieced the top together that my notes mentioned putting all four blocks in a row with lots of negative space to quilt that would read a lot more modern. Oh well. Instead, I put together a very basic, traditional sashed and bordered layout to turn the blocks into a 44″ square quilt. I’ve no current plans for it, but it’ll likely be a baby gift or charity donation sometime in the near future.
I put the quilt sandwich together at the retreat, then brought it home to quilt. I should have redone the basting before starting to quilt, as I cut corners at the retreat since I didn’t have a big space to secure the backing and batting to. I managed quilt it without too many tucks or bubbles, but it’s not my best work. The quilting is all straight-line with a mix of 40wt Gutermann (in the blocks) and 28wt Aurifil (borders and sashing). Some of the bobbin is a white 40wt poly Gutermann, and possibly even a bobbin-weight white cotton because I was scrounging around for the last bobbins and spools of white thread I had to use on this. I tried to do a wider-than-normal binding, but messed up the corners. Then, I did my worst machine binding attempt in recent history (possibly ever), resulting in an extra row of stitching all around.
The blocks are Snails Trail, Rolling 9-Patch, Rope & Anchor, and Hummingbird. The sampler was the ‘modern’ color-way option from the shop—which really just meant bright fabrics and a solid background as opposed to a country-ish food-themed fabric (if I recall correctly). In the intervening 3.5 years, I can’t remember what made me do it, but I made the green block with the back side of the fabric up, so it’s a little less vibrant than the others. I wish I knew why. I’m also not happy with the block placement—there are two fabric patterns, and I wish I’d alternated them rather than put them next to each other. Additionally, the whites are off between the blocks and sashing, which is doubly annoying since I purchased that specifically from them as coming from the same bolt of fabric.
In all, it’s not the best example of my skills, but I think that sometimes that’s okay. Regardless, it’s a candy-sweet quilt that I hope someone will love to cuddle under.
At my guild’s quilt retreat last month, a project I’ve been working on for six years (sort of) finally started really coming together. I’ve tried to save 2.5″ squares of the fabric I use in my quilts to make some sort of meta-quilt patchwork. Last year, I finally decided on how to piece the patchwork squares together and made the first eight, and I’ve kept up with my quilt finishes ever since, so I had the latest 12. The 24 in between were another story.
I dragged my entire tub of scrap fabric to the retreat with one goal: to sort it out and find the scraps for those other blocks (oh, and sort all the scraps by color [done], and maybe make scrap bins [haha, no]). I spent most of a day on the project before deciding I needed a break, and made a lot of progress. There are only nine blocks left, and I have most of those scraps set aside ready for piecing. The solid blocks signify a few unique non-cotton-patchwork quilts—t-shirtquilts and a chenille whole-cloth one. A few 2.5” squares had to be pieced together from even smaller pieces.
I thought I’d share the progress now. After piecing the different blocks together, I decided to put the rows together in a quilt-as-you-go method, so I basted my batting and backing together and started sewing the rows available when I could. The rest of the blocks are just pinned on for show and tell.
I’m not sure how I’m going to quilt this. Some days, I think I should quilt each square similar to how I quilted that quilt, since quilting can make such a difference in the final product. Other days, I think I’d like the fabric and project to stand on its own, and say stitching in the ditch is the right choice. Maybe I’ll add something via quilting or embroidery to mark the different years.
I think I can squeeze in one more row before quilting and binding (once I piece the rest of the rows together), then I’ll start a second panel. If I eventually finish that (another 48 quilts!), I’ll sew the two finished panels together side-by-side and start another. It’ll truly be a life-long project, but I love looking back and remembering each quilt.
Things have been quiet here. Everything in non-sewing life caused me to retreat from sewing for a solid two months, somehow. So, with my guild’s first ever retreat quickly approaching (this past weekend), I needed to get my sewing mojo back. The guild provided the perfect opportunity: a few mug rugs to give to women from the larger traditional guild in the area who provided space and support during their semi-annual retreat for us to do our own thing. I managed to pull three together in the week before the retreat.
#1: A scattering of hexies
I had a mini charm pack promo pack (~10 2.5″ squares?) from Windham sitting on my shelf, and was inspired by some of the hexie mini quilts that have been going around. I used plain gray fabric to turn out hexies, stuck them on to a background with spray baste, then used the quilting to secure them. The binding was leftover from a previous project. It’s a strange color scheme, but I thought it worked out well. I wish I’d ripped and fixed the top right corner, though.
#2: Masochist Shaman
Last winter, I used a bunch of 1/2″ off-cuts of Shaman by Parson Gray as leaders and enders and ended up with a strip of fabric. I’m not sure what possessed me to do something that fiddly, and had no plans for the finished piece. I cut into that, pieced it into some gray, and ended up with an interesting mug rug. I still have a few more cut strips from it, so there may be a matching one in the future. It didn’t take long to matchstick quilt something this small. I bound it with mostly matching leftovers from another project.
#3: The running out of time
I needed one more to meet my pledge and was lacking inspiration. I challenged myself to just pick some scraps within 2 minutes and start sewing. So, I grabbed three more of the Windham charms, leafed through a stack of orphaned full-sized ones for one that matched, and happened upon a scrap of solid that was the perfect compliment. It worked out surprisingly well. Quilting it was another matter, so again, I just started sewing and it worked out okay. I had a 2.5″ strip of green that made a great frame as binding.
For some reason, while machine binding the other two went very well, this one missed three of the corners. So, time being limited, I decided to topstitch all the way around in the binding to secure the corners on the back. Shh—that’s what we call a design decision, not an accident. 😉
So, those were my mug rugs. I didn’t actually complete anything at the retreat, but I made a dent in a couple of projects, so I should be posting about those soon. First, I have to go back to real life, which includes another retreat (or leadership summit, if you prefer) this week and a extra few vacation days where Carl will join me down in Austin, TX. Life never stops!
I started a double wedding ring quilt in the summer of 2012 as part of a local quilting group in Utica. At the time, I was still enamored with using all types of fabric for quilting, so I paired some Valorie Wells Cocoon with poly satin and a linen blend. After finishing three rings from a Double Wedding Ring pattern published by Free Spirit, I decided that was enough of that plan, and packed it all away. When I needed a baby quilt for another little girl this summer, I had the perfect excuse to pull it back out and cobble a new design together.
In addition to the three finished rings, the storage box contained a yard of a purple print, a yard of the butterflies print, two 6″ charm packs, a fair number of other charm squares cut into fourths, a quarter yard each of the five poly satins, and a ton of the linen blend. If I recall correctly, once I’d given up on doing an all-over double wedding ring quilt, I decided to do a somewhat complicated (and large) medallion quilt with the leftovers, but then put that off as well. This time around, I wanted something simple and baby-sized. Her sisters were recipients of the Impressions Baby Quilt (coincidentally started around the same time as this DWR) and Noble Blooms, both of which were around 40-45″ to a side, so that’s what I aimed for here as well. The length was easy—the rings were 40″ long—so I just had to worry about width.
After thinking about it for a couple of days, I decided columns of charms on either side of the centered ring applique strip would work well to finish this off. To tie it in to the shapes in the rings, I sliced off the edges of the charms at an angle for a trapezoid shape, which still stacks well if you flip them around back and forth. I meant to have the strips on the edges be reversed (long edge of trapezoid to long edge), but pieced them incorrectly. I decided to leave them as is. I could have paid better attention to pattern placement within the strips as well, but in this case done is better than perfect.
It’s backed with a dimpled cuddle fabric—I wanted to be consistent with her sisters’ quilts rather than use the cotton yardage I had leftover. In between is Soft ‘n Crafty 80/20. The rings are a bit loftier because they’d already been quilted to a layer of batting back in 2012.
Most of the quilting is straight line (and echoes of the rings). In the center of each ring, I used a machine embroidery quilting design for feathers. It looks okay on the front, but I’m a bit unhappy with the back of those sections due to the heaviness in the center. I considered much more intricate quilting, but didn’t want to squish the cuddle background too much. I used a pale pink Aurifil for all the quilting—it’s a nice contrast in the grey areas, and blends well into the colorful parts. (Also in the box of supplies—color matched rayon embroidery threads I’d intended to quilt with—those definitely wouldn’t have held up to use!) It’s machine bound in the purple yardage I had from the line.
As I did for her sisters, I made a stuffed animal and doll quilt to go with the baby quilt. The stuffie is made from backing leftovers using my trusty copy of Simplicity 2613. The 16″x18.5″ doll quilt used up the quartered charm square scraps (trimmed down to 2.5″ squares) and 2.5″ strips from the butterfly print. It’s backed with the pinstriped linen blend and bound with the same purple as the quilt.
It’s nice to cross another project off the “in progress but more or less abandoned” list and lighten my stash a bit! Plus, I’m glad that the new baby has a quilt just like her sisters do, even if it was a few months late this time around. Now to wash it and send it on its way! (Speaking of washing, please forgive the fact that you can see blue markings in some of the photos from where I marked to center the embroideries.)
The curriculum for one of the coding classes I teach used to have a meet and greet question that everyone would answer: “what’s your favorite dinosaur”? Without fail, I’d forget to plan for it, and have to wrack my brain for one from Land Before Time or Jurassic Park (those movies being the extent of my familiarity with dinos). I’ve found my new favorite (a bit too late, c’est la vie): the inimitable Winosaur!
I picked this embroidery up from Urban Threads a while ago, when it was featured as a freebie. It was perfect for a set of tea towels (wine towels?) to give as a hostess/housewarming gift to friends who recently moved and threw a BBQ.
Rwaar. Glug glug.
Learn from my mistakes
I’m glad that I bought a full yard of the waffle weave fabric I used to make these towels out of, as my first attempt and a half at stitching out the embroidery went awry. Most of this is Machine Embroidery 101-level stuff, but I thought I’d share everything I learned. I tried to cut corners and it bit me, of course.
Use a fresh needle. An embroidery one. In the right size. No, that one you just finished using to quilt something is not okay.
Buy the right-sized stabilizer. Yes, you may have the right type stashed, but if it’s sized for a smaller hoop, just go buy the right size.
Double (or triple) up your water-soluble stabilizer according to their directions, particularly with an unstable fabric and heavy line stitching.
Use spray baste to attach the stabilizer to your fabric.
Have your machine baste the design outline before stitching.
The Large Metal Hoop, while awesome, doesn’t ship with enough magnets to secure unstable weaves. Steal more from your fridge (TMNT to the rescue! Cowabunga, dudes!).
The towels themselves are simple. They’re a fat quarter of waffle weave fabric, hemmed with mitered corners on one short edge, and the fringed selvage left bare for that towel-like look on the other. I used a contrast thread with a zigzag for aesthetics. I couldn’t help making a spare set for myself in the name of ‘testing’ the final product! And by that, I mean I kept the awkward learning curve versions for myself.
Having free motioned text as quilting in the past, Angela Walters’ Mighty Lucky challenge did not strike me as the most inspiring—not that it’s a bad challenge, but it was nothing new to my skill set. I was all set to not make a project for it (just like the last few months… shhh…), until I remembered that I signed up at the beginning of the year to talk about the challenge at my guild meeting this month.
A pillow cover seemed the perfect project to showcase both cursive and block lettering in the form of my favorite Louisa May Alcott quote.
“She is too fond of books, and it has turned her brain.” Work: A Story of Experience (1873), Louisa May Alcott
Because my handwriting is horrendous, I arranged the text in Illustrator, then printed it out to trace. While not feasible for a sandwiched quilt, I was able to use my window as a lightbox to trace the lettering onto the top fabric of my pillow cover.
It’s quilted on linen, with wool batting and no backing, using a rayon embroidery thread. I considered doing additional quilting with a whitish thread, but my time was limited and I was happy with how the quote looked alone.
I finished the case with an envelope backing that matches the thread color and stuffed it with a purchased 12×16″ pillow form. It’s perfect as a bolster pillow for a reading nook!
I bought far more fabric than I needed to make the bridal shower tea party bunting (half yard cuts of six prints, a yard of another), so the obvious thing to do was to use some as part of a shower gift for the bride and groom. I ended up with a suite of gifts perfect for a picnic at the park.
I made a pair of basic mitered-corner napkins using a half yard of fabric. They finished at 17″ square. There are many good mitered corner napkin tutorials online if you need one. I used this one from Purl Soho as a refresher for the corners because I can never recall how to do it properly. Here’s another one from Craftsy if you don’t want to be sold hard on buying more fabric.
When I cut out bunting pieces, I ended up with extra triangles and end pieces since I simply sliced up a 9″ strip of each fabric. I wanted to use up those pieces in any piecing, so started putting together the placemat design with improvisational piecing taking cues from the triangles. I paired the Park Life prints with Kaffe Fasset Shot Cotton in Latte from my stash—slightly different than the solid gray I used in the bunting, but a better match for the colors in Park Life—it’s a slightly taupe-ish gray.
The back is pieced from more triangles and a strip of the gray. After piecing, I inserted a strip between one piecing seam and the binding that acts as a napkin ring on the front. I quilted them in 1/4″ lines with a gray-taupe Aurifil, then bound them in the gray with one small scrap of print to give a bit of visual weight to the right side.
Because the intent was that these are portable for a picnic, I tried to figure out a way to secure them while rolled up for easy transportation. Going back to the pile of leftover triangles, I made a pennant, slid it into the binding, and used a bit of Velcro to allow it to fasten flat to the back, or to itself if you roll up the placemat. It turned out to be my favorite feature.
What good are traveling placemats and napkins if you’ve nothing to carry them in? Using the Art Student Tote as a general design guide, I pulled together a bag made of dark gray Essex Linen, straps in a Park Life print, and a machine embroidered pocket using a coordinating solid from my stash and one of the tea embroideries from the bunting.
The bag is 13″x18″x4″—a hybrid of the two Art Student Tote sizes. I only added one pocket to the front, no closures, and no interior dividers/pockets. Since I lined it in the exterior linen, I modified the construction a little bit and added a flange for a pop of color around the top of the interior. Having learned from using my own Art Student Tote, I made sure to use a woven interfacing for the straps—mine are starting to stretch out and warp due to the medium-weight non-woven—and cut an extra strip to get the full suggested 128″ instead of the approximate three widths of fabric—mine are a smidgen short when the bag is loaded up. I also modified the strap construction to use two different fabrics (one on each side), as I didn’t have enough of any one fabric.
The Whole Package
To round out the picnic theme, I added a few store-bought gifts as well.
It was a dreary, rainy day when I tried to take photos before shipping it off. I hope the couple has many sunny days in their future.
Even with this whole package, I still have a quarter yard of five of the prints—and a few more triangles—but for now I’ll retire that to the depths of my stash and move on to some other things!
When I started working on this quilt in 2011, it was a chance to dip my toes into making a quilt for show and a way to embrace my love of history and research. The possibility that it would be accepted as one of 26 to travel after the initial show was never in my thoughts. The idea that the show would continue traveling across the country and internationally for four years was beyond my imagining.
Now that it’s home, I finally had the chance to take photos of the finished quilt!
Here’s the statement that I submitted with it, which gives you a better idea of why there are three distinct sections.
One fact about the War of 1812 that sticks with me is that the last living survivor of the War was only fourteen years old when he enlisted. Surely, he was not the only man to enlist that young—though we now call a fourteen-year-old a boy, not a man. Fourteen—even eighteen—years is not so many years at all to a mother. So my inspiration of cradle–to–cot–to–coffin was born.
My premise is that the center section originated as a cradle or crib quilt, sewn sometime post-1795 (when the 15th state was admitted, represented by 15 stars in the medallion) for the birth of a son. Sixteen or so years later, a mother extended the quilt to its final dimensions, and sent it off to war with that same son—now a soldier—to warm him once again.
I constructed the quilt in three separate parts, almost finishing them completely before putting everything together as one quilt. Although it is machine pieced and mostly machine-quilted, I did a lot of handwork: the medallion is hand-quilted, the edges were all done by hand, and actually connecting the three pieces was also by hand. If I recall correctly, I liked the wool batting I used in this quilt far better than the type I used more recently. It came from a bolt at Joann Fabrics, but I haven’t seen it since.
The edges are knife-edge finished. To connect the sections together, I pressed the edges of the center section edges in like I would if I were finishing them with a knife-edge, slid the other section into that resulting pocket, and stitched the center to the other section on the front and back.
The center medallion was a stock photo woodcut engraving that I printed via Spoonflower. Although the majority of the quilting is machine quilting, I hand quilted the center. I had no idea what I was doing or how to hand quilt, as evidenced by the back.
The back looks very make-do, as I tried to use up as much of the leftover fabric as possible rather than let it fill up my scrap bin. Don’t mind the selvages showing at that very top—that is the hanging sleeve. There’s a custom label pieced directly into the back, inspired by one memorializing Princess Charlotte of Britain c. 1817 (scroll midway down).
Those of you who have been following me for a while know that I’m not a big fan of the tension between traditional and modern quilting. I’ve made traditional. I’ve made modern. I’ve made modern with traditional. I’ve made a lot of things that are just quilts. I spend more time with a modern guild and modern quilters, but it’s not at the expense of respecting and learning from traditional sources. I think that we as quilters and people are better for acknowledging that both sides (and everything in between) have much to bring to our craft and art.
In my Web wanderings recently, I came across a digitized collection of early 20th century quilt design paintings. The 419 watercolor paintings were done by Virginia Beauchamp around 1919-1923, but many depict quilts from the previous century. What drew me into the collection was how her framing and cropping of the quilt down to the desired design motif is incredibly similar to how we often make modern traditional quilts.
Sometimes it’s as simple as taking a traditional quilt design and making it in solids.
Other times, we take a single block and make it very large.
Some of the paintings go beyond depicting what we call modern traditional and straight into modern.
We break the grid.
We decompose the design in places.
We use negative space to great effect.
This collection has left me inspired with ideas of quilts to make for years to come. I hope you find similar inspiration.